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Author: Subject: Using bacteria to grow a leather like material
chironex
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[*] posted on 2-5-2017 at 09:42
Using bacteria to grow a leather like material


So this is something me and some friends have been working on for a while. We're all interested in bio plastics and sustainable materials. A while back, we heard about some people turning the SCOBY that grows on the surface of kombucha and turning it into a leather like material. But for some reason, even though the end product looks and feels amazing, any work on this was mostly relegated to an interesting art project and then forgotten. SO we decided to pick up where people left off and try it for ourselves. As the scoby grows, a complex mixture of polymers are produced, and if you dry it out and treat it with a mixture of oil and beeswax it feels very similair to real leather and is incredibly strong. We made a video of the whole process LINK TO VIDEO

We're also starting to experiment with other treatments. For example, cooking the finished "leather" darkens the material and makes it look soooo much more like real leather and it doesn't seem to affect the strength at all. Also we're looking at soaking the SCOBY in a dilute iron salt solution to dye it black, or some alzarin to dye it red. We're currently scaling up production to produce 5 foot wide sheets all at once.We want to make an umbrella and a raincoat out of it. Hope ya'll find this interesting
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Chemetix
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[*] posted on 2-5-2017 at 12:50


Vale! This is the kind of 'what if I did this.. ' sort of mad science that there needs to be more of. I hope you IP'd the hell out of the improvements to the process!


fixed a typo

[Edited on 3-5-2017 by Chemetix]
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Morgan
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[*] posted on 2-5-2017 at 18:20


Seems like a fun project. Found some related subject matter. I recall seeing this clip before, perhaps mentioned in a previous thread. Looks like a lot of people are toying with it after doing a bit of Googling.
http://www.thekitchn.com/you-can-make-clothes-out-of-your-ko...

"Her love for color and the magical play between light and texture has inspired her to use food dyes which keep the live culture breathing and vibrant. Kombucha Couture- fashioning live culture."
http://www.kombuchacouture.com/

It was pointed out kombucha "leather" is "susceptible" to getting wet and someone mentioned it was somewhat like parchment paper. And I was kind of sad after reading about many brands of parchment paper some months back thinking it was something natural but perhaps a silicone coating on kombucha would be useful for some purposes.
A comment from the link below ...
The Wiki article describes the making of parchment paper (w/o the silicone coating) thus:
"Modern parchment paper is made by running sheets of paper pulp through a bath of sulfuric acid... or sometimes zinc chloride. This process partially dissolves or gelatinizes the paper, a process which is reversed by washing the chemicals off followed by drying. This treatment forms a sulfurized cross-linked material with high density, stability, and heat resistance, and low surface energy – thereby imparting good non-stick or release properties"
When did parchment paper lose its innocence?
https://www.chowhound.com/post/parchment-paper-lose-innocenc...

The sulfuric acid treatment brought to mind mercerization of cotton and if it could be somehow applied to the kombucha, just some meager thoughts that came to mind.
"Not only is the color brighter, it also gives the cloth a better resistance to multiple washings, keeping the colors bright and unchanged over time. In addition to increasing luster and affinity to dyestuffs, the treatment increases strength, smoothness, resistance to mildew, and also reduces lint."

"So higher quality yarns and fabrics, for example, are always mercerized."
To get the desired luster and tensile strength, cotton is held under specified tension for about ten minutes with an application of between 21%-23% caustic soda (NaOH) and wetting agents (used to facilitate the transfer of the NaOH into the fibers), at room temperature. Then the fabric is neutralized in an acid bath."

"The process goes back to the 1880’s. John Mercer was granted a British Patent for his discovery that cotton and other fibers changed character when subjected to caustic soda (NaOh, also known as sodium hydroxide or lye), sulfuric acid, and/or other chemicals. One of the changes was that caustic soda caused the fiber to swell, become round and straighten out. But so what – these changes didn’t impart any luster to the fibers, so his patent was largely ignored. Then in 1890 Horace Lowe found that by applying Mercer’s caustic soda process to cotton yarn or fabric under tension, the fabric gained a high luster as a result of the light reflection off the smooth, round surface created by the NaOH. It became an overnight success and revolutionized the cotton industry. The rest is history."
https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/what-does-merc...

I wonder if anybody has tried nitrating it? Flash kombucha.


[Edited on 3-5-2017 by Morgan]
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chironex
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[*] posted on 2-5-2017 at 19:31


We like to keep a lot of our work open source, but if we come up with something particularly fantastic we may keep the recipe to ourselves and either mass produce it or license it to someone who can. We'll see. More work needs to be done before we can make that call.
This was a super fun project though, and scaling it is exciting. We're even looking at using the material as a scaffold for tissue culture. There are just so many possibilities. Frankly, I want a backpack made of this stuff
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phlogiston
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[*] posted on 3-5-2017 at 00:26


Cool, I really believe that we will witness a revolution in manufacturing materials and objects using modified and naturally occurring organisms. It has been in the making for decades and that vision is not at all new, but we are nearing a point where we have the tools and understanding to design organsism that do what we want.

Anyway, I was in a museum last year which had an exhibition of objects made of sheets of fungus (including clothing such as shoes, a dress and different art objects) . You would probably enjoy it if you have not already seen it, but most of what I can find about it is in Dutch. This site is in English:

http://www.fungal-futures.com/tour
http://www.fungal-futures.com/Growing-Shoes-1

Maybe google translate can help you with those:

http://neffa.nl/nl/portfolio/mycotex/
http://www.universiteitsmuseum.nl/te-zien-en-te-doen/tentoon...




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